June 7, 2015

Greer Garson, Mrs. Parkington


Another year, another Greer Garson nomination. The worst part about frequent nominees are when all the performances seem exactly the same, and that's wholly exemplified here with Mrs. Parkington. The warm, doe-eyed, sweet girl? See Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Blossoms in the Dust or Madame Curie. The warm, doe-eyed sweet girl coming from a poor background? See Madame Curie. The warm, doe-eyed sweet girl who falls for Walter Pidgeon? See Blossoms in the Dust, Madame Curie, and to a lesser extent, Mrs. Miniver. But what about Greer Garson decked out in old lady drag? See Madame Curie. My point is, we've seen it all before. And yet we're served more and more of the same. 

As it happens, this is probably the most bored I've been watching a Greer Garson flick. Mrs. Parkington doesn't offer anything innovative by way of 1940s dramas, and Garson is a little non-engaging here. Her scenes where she's decked out in old-age makeup are hit-or-miss; along with the schtick comes acting that is so very acting, with all her mannerisms and spoken words really expressed, and she is too self-aware for my liking. Her scenes as a younger woman are...scenes. Nothing groundbreaking by any means. Moments of high drama are strangely stifled in execution, thus disallowing Garson from making any sort of impact (such as the scene in which her mother dies or the later scene in which we are told her son has passed). Otherwise she just floats along, playing that wholesome, breathy wife role that we're all too familiar with to a tee. As is typically the case with Garson, it's not so much that she's bad here--I would have to say that I don't think she's ever delivered a bad performance--my issue with Garson most of the time is that it hardly ever seems like she's capable of making the really bland films she's often thrown into to be actually interesting. It's dull. It's boring. There is however, one scene that Garson plays which I found to be the highlight of the entire film; it is her last, in which she gives a passionate and embittered monologue to her family. Rather ironic that her greatest scene comes at the film's end, after we've trekked along for two hours on very familiar ground. It's that kind of Garson that I wished we'd be able to see more of, but alas the things I want to see are often not the things that Oscar likes to see. Overall, a really ordinary performance, another forgettable addition to an arsenal of vanilla performances/forgettable nominations. 

1 comment:

  1. It's been too long since I've seen Parkington to comment directly; it's probably longer ago than I've seen Sunrise at Campobello, but I have to say it's Miniver and especially the achingly good Random Harvest I remember best.

    Perhaps the greatest handicap for Mayer's 'new Shearer' is that this one didn't have her own Irving Thalberg, who would have surely perceived sooner, and acted quickly before audiences were exhausted of Greer in one role of stifling nobility after another. Even Norma was spaced two years each between Elizabeth Barrett, Juliet and Antoinette.